Holidays are the best time of the year! Research demonstrates that being on holiday is not only fun but also healthy: it lowers your risk of cardiovascular diseases and is one of the building blocks of healthy living.
Unfortunately, no holiday can last forever. Eventually, the time will come to go back to work. Is it possible to make the return to work less painful?
Yes, it is.
Psychologist and researcher Jessica de Bloom of Tampere University recommends returning to work in the middle of the week rather than a Monday. If you resume work, for example, on a Wednesday, you will know you only have to work for a couple of days before the weekend. A stress-free return to work will help you savour your ‘holiday afterglow’.
If possible, start by working shorter hours and gradually build up working time. At the very least, avoid working overtime. This will give you and your body time to adjust to being back at work.
Did you remember to set an out-of-office reply for your work email that is still on until a day after you return? The German automobile manufacturer Daimler sets a bold example by allowing employees to automatically delete incoming emails while they are on holiday and send the following automatic reply: ‘I am on vacation. Your message is being deleted. Please resend your email after I’m back in the office.’ Before setting up a similar reply, you may want to ensure that your employer approves this.
Do things that you enjoy and find relaxing in the evenings after you return to work. Could you integrate your personal (and preferably healthy) ‘holiday happiness’ ingredients into your everyday life? For example, have a swim in the morning or a picnic in the park after work.
Take mini-holidays close to home in the evenings and over the weekend. And maybe join a guided tour through your hometown or a museum to hold on to the holiday feeling?
Most importantly, do something else than sit on the couch fiddling with your smartphone. Research has shown that the intensive use of smartphones effectively prevents our recovery from work-related stress.
Take short breaks every now and then during the work day, at least proper lunch breaks when you do not talk shop.
If you are one of the lucky ones whose holidays is still ahead of them, try to make the transition from work to holiday mode as smooth as possible. Several studies suggest that not only the last few days before a holiday but also the first days off are often quite stressful. Many of us start our holiday experiencing physical symptoms such as high blood pressure, migraine or an upset stomach. We may have trouble sleeping and be moody even though we are supposed to be loving every minute of it.
These symptoms are likely to be caused by hormonal changes connected to a sudden drop in our corticosteroid or stress hormone levels. The reaction is similar to a car engine when the driver changes directly from fifth gear to first gear.
So instead of rushing out of the office and hopping into a hammock with beer keg planted next to you, why not visit a gym? Or if exercise would be too much, try to smoothen the transition period, for example, by working shorter hours in the days leading up to your holiday. If possible, walk home after your last day at work.
These tips will help you mentally disengage and detach from work and lower your stress hormone levels. They can help you avoid becoming physically ill on your first days off.
Once your holiday is in full swing, enjoy it with all your senses to make wonderful holidays memories that you can cherish after you return to work. Do what you want to do and not what you ‘should’ do.
Travelling has been found to broaden the mind and improve creativity. If you suffer from climate anxiety, jet setting here and there may cause you to feel self-reproachful after your holiday. Then it may be best to stay closer to home.
As we tend to remember particularly well the worst, the best and the last moments of an experience, you should end your holiday on a high note. Do not spend your last day off cleaning, packing or travelling. Instead, invite your friends over and cook your favourite vacation dish for them.
If you have used up all your holiday this year, fear not. The new holiday season will be upon us sooner than your realise. While waiting for your next holiday, you could consider taking a different approach to vacationing. What if you took several shorter breaks instead of one long chunk of holiday?
Right about this time you will begin to notice that holidays have a short-lived effect on wellbeing. Studies have shown that the benefits wash out in as little as 1-4 weeks.
The best way to recover these benefits is to take a new holiday. Besides, it may be risky to put all your eggs in one basket and hope for the perfect holiday that may not come. It may rain all the time, you may get sick or be left by your partner, or your mother-in-law may pop by for a surprise visit.
By planning regular long weekends and short vacations, you can achieve a healthy work–life balance and feel vital all year round.
Source: Jessica de Bloom: Making Holidays Work